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Citation: OJ EPO 2015, A62
Online publication date: 31.7.2015

Notice from the European Patent Office dated 29 July 2015 concerning postal transmission problems in Germany owing to strike action at Deutsche Post AG and DHL

1. From the beginning of April until the end of July 2015, mail delivery and transmission by Deutsche Post AG and DHL was dislocated by several strikes on the part of those postal service providers and the time then needed to clear the backlog of undelivered mail. The impact of these strikes was different from region to region, being most severe and widespread in June, but did not affect all services of Deutsche Post AG and DHL in the same way. This notice explains how the EPO will deal with delivery and transmission problems caused by the strikes in question.

Mail sent to the EPO

2. If mail was sent to the EPO using Deutsche Post AG or DHL in the months referred to above, point 1, and was received by the EPO only after expiry of a time limit, Rule 134(5) EPC will be applied. This means that the applicant may produce evidence that he sent the documents concerned in time. In such cases the EPO will, as a rule, assume that the transmission and delivery of mail by Deutsche Post AG or DHL was dislocated due to exceptional occurrences as listed in Rule 134(5) EPC or "other like reasons"; if the evidence produced satisfies the EPO, the document received late will be deemed to have been received in due time.

3. Under the PCT, the remedies available if a party misses a time limit for performing an action are set out in Rules 82.1 and 82quater PCT. In accordance with Rule 82quater.1 PCT, the EPO as receiving Office, International Searching Authority, Authority specified for supplementary search or International Preliminary Examining Authority will excuse delays in meeting time limits if it is proven that these delays are due to the aforementioned strikes. In accordance with Rule 82.1 PCT, the EPO will also excuse delays in submitting a document or letter if it is proven that such document or letter was mailed five days prior to the expiration of the time limit. Under both rules, the necessary evidence should be addressed to the Office not later than six months after the expiration of the time limit applicable.

Mail sent by the EPO

4. The EPO notifies mail to the applicant or its representative by postal services in accordance with Rule 126 EPC. Under Rule 126(1) EPC decisions incurring a period for appeal or a petition for review and summonses are notified by registered letter with advice of delivery or equivalent whereas all other notifications are made by registered letter without advice of delivery or equivalent. Under Rule 126(2) any document notified by the EPO by registered letter or by registered letter with advice of delivery or equivalent will be deemed to be delivered to the addressee on the tenth day following its handover to the postal service provider.

5. This ten-day-rule does not apply where the letter has failed to reach the addressee or has reached him at a later date. In case of any dispute it is incumbent on the EPO to establish that the letter has reached its destination or to establish the date on which the letter was delivered to the addressee, as the case may be.

6. In the case of non-delivery or belated delivery of mail notified by the EPO during the months referred to above, point 1, an applicant or his representative may file a reasoned request explaining that the notification was not made within the ten days referred to in Rule 126(2) EPC and that because of this non-delivery or belated delivery of mail he could not act as he would have wished to in the relevant proceedings before the EPO. Any adverse procedural effects caused by the transmission and delivery problems will be remedied by the EPO in an appropriate manner.